AUTHORS: Saj A, Pierce JE, Ronchi R, Ros T, Thomasson M, Bernati T, Van De Ville D, Serino A, Vuilleumier P

Science Direct, 64(2021): 101561, July 2021


Spatial neglect is a neuropsychological syndrome characterized by a failure to orient, perceive, and act toward the contralesional side of the space after brain injury. Neglect is one of the most frequent and disabling neuropsychological syndromes following right-hemisphere damage, often persisting in the chronic phase and responsible for a poor functional outcome at hospital discharge. Different rehabilitation approaches have been proposed over the past 60 years, with a variable degree of effectiveness. In this point of-view article, we describe a new rehabilitation technique for spatial neglect that directly targets brain activity and pathological physiological processes: namely, neurofeedback (NFB) with real-time brain imaging methodologies. In recent proof-of-principle studies, we have demonstrated the potential of this rehabilitation technique. Using real-time functional MRI (rt-fMRI) NFB in chronic neglect, we demonstrated that patients are able to upregulate their right visual cortex activity, a response that is otherwise reduced due to losses in top-down attentional signals. Using real-time electroencephalography NFB in patients with acute or chronic condition, we showed successful regulation with partial restoration of brain rhythm dynamics over the damaged hemisphere. Both approaches were followed by mild, but encouraging, improvement in neglect symptoms. NFB techniques, by training endogenous top-down modulation of attentional control on sensory processing, might induce sustained changes at both the neural and behavioral levels, while being non-invasive and safe. However, more properly powered clinical studies with control groups and longer follow-up are needed to fully establish the effectiveness of the techniques, identify the most suitable candidates, and determine how the techniques can be optimized or combined in the context of rehabilitation.

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